By JONATHAN ANGURA, MOSES WALUBIRI AND RAYMOND BAGUMA
The late Dr. Stephen Oscar Mallinga, who was former minister of disaster preparedness, was born on November 17, 1943 in Kasiebai village, Butebo, in Pallisa district, eastern Uganda.
John Obuya, a friend who grew up with him, said Mallinga’s father, Jonathan Obukunyang, who was a catechist in Okunguro, Bukedea district, died when he (Mallinga) was two years old. |
He was brought up by his elder sister, Rhoda Akatekit. Mallinga’s mother was called Lakeri Asekenye. Mallinga belonged to the Ikomolo Akile clan, with roots in Kumi and Bukedea districts.
He went to Butebo Primary School, before joining Budaka Junior School, then Nabumali High School for O’level and Ntare School for A’ level (1962-1963).
In July 1964, he joined Makerere University Medical School, which was then part of the University of East Africa. At Makerere, he resided in University Hall and was roommates with Prof. Francis Omaswa, the former Director General of Health Services in the Ministry of Health.
Omaswa described Mallinga as a low-key person, who was intelligent and organised. “When we finished internship at Mulago Hospital, he joined the army.
He had also sat examinations to practice medicine in the US,” Omaswa said. Mallinga, who did his internship at Jinja and Mulago hospitals, graduated from Makerere University in March 1969, with a Bachelor of Medicine.
Thereafter, he joined the then Uganda Army from Jinja and was given the rank of a Captain, since he was a medical doctor. He was posted to Masindi battalion.
While in Masindi he produced a son, Oscar Akol, with a woman in the area. Akol, who joined the UPDF, died in a fire accident in May 2012, at the rank of Lieutenant.
When Idi Amin took over power, Mallinga was transferred to Rubongi army barracks in Tororo district. At the time, being a military doctor, Mallinga was tasked to certify the death of people killed by firing squad.
This did not go well with Mallinga, yet he could not resign from the army. He opted to go into exile and escaped through Malaba border post to Kenya in 1973.
He later went to Somalia and Israel, before finally getting asylum in the US. Between 1973 and 1977, he served as a Consultant at Cook County Hospital, Chicago, Illinois.
From 1978 until 1985, he served as the chairperson in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Jackson Park Hospital, Chicago. He then served as a consultant at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, a suburb of Chicago.
Dr. Mallinga cuts a tape during the commissioning of Uganda Martyrs Hospital in Kyaliwajja, Wakiso district on March 9, 2010
He was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) and the International College of Surgeons (FICS). Mzee Obuya said while in Chicago, Mallinga met an Indian lady, with whom he had studied in Kampala and married her.
They produced four children, three of them girls and all of them live in Chicago. Mallinga separated with their mother after 29 years of marriage.
After getting frequent requests from President Yoweri Museveni, convincing him to return, Mallinga came back to Uganda in 1996. He joined politics as a strong Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party member.
Obuya said Mallinga was a UPC youth winger in the 1960s during the first government of the late president Dr. Milton Obote. He was elected Member of Parliament for Butebo County, in Pallisa in 1996, a position he held until his death.
On return, Mallinga married Beatrice, with whom he had a daughter. Mallinga crossed from his UPC party to NRM in 2006 and was appointed Minister of Health, a position he held until 2011, when he was assigned the portfolio of Minister of Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Refugees.
Dr. Mallinga donning dry banana leaves after crossing from UPC to NRM
Obuya said during his school days, Mallinga liked playing football, reading and was very fluent in English. In memory of his father, Mallinga built Jonathan Memorial Secondary School in Butebo. “He was a wealthy man and built a nice school in memory of his father. He has also left a livestock farm and a big chunk of land,” Obuya said.